January 14, 2012
Samantha and Ryan, take a peek behind you just now; and a peek in front of you. The company of all who love and support you and the company of God around you. You are beautiful. And you are richly blessed.
A confession for the rest of you: I have already shared what I consider to be the very best marriage sermon I have ever heard with Samantha and Ryan in our weeks of counsel together. This isn't that sermon. It's only a Tribute.
Samantha and Ryan, you chose the readings we just heard to call to mind images of love, your love and God’s love; images to take with you on your journey together. In this moment before your moment, I want to pay attention for just a second to one other preparation you’ve made for one another: I want to pay attention to the the vows you have written. Don't worry, I won't spoil what y'all have prepared for each other. I want to pay attention for just a second to the words that the church gives you to begin your vows with: "In the name of God, I, Samantha; in the name of God, I, Ryan. In the name of God, I.
This may be the simplest, truest way to talk about your marriage. In days after this day, it may be the simplest, truest way to remember what your marriage is all about: In the name of God, I. Everything else that you promise to do after these words lines up behind and takes its lead from these words. Today you are asking God to help you love another person in the Name of the God, with the same love God has for this person, just as God loves this person. Today you promise to relate to the beautiful (or handsome) person you are taking just now the way God relates to that person: with patience. With generosity. With loving-kindness. With gentleness. With joy. The way God sees and loves this person.
And this will be easier to promise on days when your clothes are dazzling and your smiles are wide and everyone you love is gathered behind you. And this will be harder on days the clothes aren’t quite as dazzling, are crumpled up, un-ironed, along the floorboard, and the rent is due or passed due and the day's been hard and it doesn't feel like anyone's behind you at all. Whether the tears be joyful or filled with pain, your commitment remains: with patience, with generosity, with love-kindness, with gentleness, with joy. The way God sees and loves this person. Indeed, you promise to love this person with the same love God has for all persons and the whole of creation. Your love is a practice in learning God’s love.
Of course you won't do this perfectly, you'll mess up, you'll need forgiveness, but after you fall, when you get up again, you'll know exactly what your next task is: to see and love this person the way God sees and loves this person. In the Name of God, I.
That's the gist of the promise you make you each other today. But wait! There's more. A surprise. The surprise is that God is making a promise to the both of you, too. The promise God makes to you today is that as you begin to look at each other the way God looks at you, you will find more than the ability to graciously overlook the times he leaves his socks on the kitchen counter; you’ll find more than grace to forbear one another’s faults: God’s promise to you is that you will discover Christ himself in your spouse. You will discover Jesus, the fullest expression of God's love, look back at you, calling back to you, in joy and in pain, because in the one you are seeking to love as God loves you will find the one who is seeking to see you, the way God sees you. And Jesus is the way God sees you. In him, you are both remarkable, deeply loved children of God.
Samantha and Ryan, this is the challenge of marriage if you choose to accept it. And this is the promise of marriage if you choose to accept it.
Samantha and Ryan have shared with me their desire to bless others through their marriage. To the two of you: please don't ever forget or underestimate how you will bless the rest of us by practicing God's love on each other. By showing the world what it looks like, how it is, when we look at each other through the eyes of God’s love; when we receive a beloved creature of God with all of the delight of the Creator. You are God's delight.
Of course you'll need help - that's what we're here for, and we're pulling for you. That's what God's here for, and he's living in you. But just in case you've forgotten it - and so the folks behind you don't feel left out - let me close with the best marriage sermon I ever heard - by reminding you again of the ten fool-proof steps to a faithful and fruitful marriage - a faithful and fruitful life together. Are you ready?
3. (say it with me if you think you know it:) Forgive.
This is more than good advice. This is how you learn the love God has for you.
Samantha and Ryan, love each other as God loves you (remember 1 Corinthians), seek and find Christ in each other (remember the Song of Solomon), and bless us by your delight in one another.